No weeping

Willow tree becomes art as Eco-Sculptures fill Greenbelt

The willow tree at Greenbelt Park may already consider itself a work of art. On April 18, artist Jacob Stanley will incorporate the stately tree into an Eco-Sculpture in an effort to promote not only art but the environment and Earth Day.

Stanley’s outdoor sculpture, pictured conceptually at right, will be one of the 18 sculptures gracing Greenbelt Park for the week of April 18-25 as part of Blount County’s first Eco-Sculpture juried competition, hosted by the Maryville Arts Coalition.

The juried art show rules were that the artists had to use earthen recycled materials. “The idea was the artwork must maintain the idea of earth awareness,” said MAC executive director Katie Gamble. “We’re trying to raise awareness of the environment through art.”

Gamble said the idea for an Eco-Sculpture competition came about when an artist participating in MAC’s Last Friday Art Walk submitted a proposal for an on-site installation at the Greenbelt.

“We thought it was fantastic, but knew we needed more than one sculpture in the park to get the city on board to do this,” Gamble said. “The ideas just kept churning: What if we made an eco-sculpture competition to bring awareness around Earth Day? We also saw a way to further our goal of enhancing professional artists by making it a juried competition and offering a $2,500 Best of Show cash prize, plus cash awards for other placements. That’s how it all started.”

Gamble’s first stop was to consult with the organizers of Earth Round-Up and the City of Maryville about the concept. Both were receptive to the idea and the details began to be hammered out. Raising funds proved challenging, but Gamble accepted sponsorships for what businesses could offer. A total of 13 businesses provided donations or in-kind sponsorships to help the Eco-Sculpture event reach its goal.

After the artist deadline for the sculpture concepts, there were 9 artists chosen. Their work will be installed in Greenbelt Park a few days prior to April 18 and will be judged by a Nashville artist.

Onsite installation is site specific, said Gamble. “The sculpture is created around whatever environment the artist finds. The art is built around the spot and location on that specific site,” she said. “It wouldn’t be the same sculpture if it was on a different piece of ground.

“Maryville has never done anything like this. We have this beautiful Greenbelt, perfect to showcase art and to bring awareness to the great park and environment we have,” she said.

Gamble said she is hopeful this will grow to a point where there is a sculpture garden that stays up for the month of April each year, leading up to Earth Round-Up.

“We’re starting small like the Art Walk started. We hope it will grow just as fast.”

The sculptors’ work will be on display from April 18 through April 25. A reception is planned for the sculpture artists at 7 p.m. in the penthouse of the Davis Lofts on East Harper Avenue on the night of Last Friday Art Walk, April 24.

“State Sen. Doug Overbey will preside over the ceremony and give out the awards then,” said Gamble. “We will also have a brief presentation on the impact on the environmental awareness and how recycled materials can be utilized for art.”

The Eco-Sculpture show will benefit area artists as well as entertain and educate the public, Gamble said. Juried events like Eco-Sculpture are on more of a professional level than the monthly Last Friday Art Walk shows. “The juried shows are to give people on a more professional level a chance to beef up their resume and get those juried competitions under their belt,” she said.

Gamble said planners hope people will turn out to enjoy the sculptures that will be on display in the Greenbelt Park “We really want people to come out and take a walk and pay attention to what the artist’s idea was,” she said. “We’ll have markers with each sculpture to show the artist’s concept and how it associates and connects with the environment.”

Eco-Sculpture participating artists are Jacob Stanley, Bryan Wilkerson, John Stockdale, Ronda L. Phipps, Randall Marc Phillips, Elain O’Sullivan, Gerry Moll, Katie Walberg, Zophia Kneiss, Annamarie Gundlach, Heather Couch and Zac Benson.

For the children

The Eco-Sculpture event will not only go hand-in-hand with Earth Round-Up, it is also going to be incorporated into Last Friday Art Walk on April 24. In addition to the awards ceremony, MAC has planned an interactive community sculpture event for April’s Last Friday.

Called an Interactive Community Teepee, the project is patterned after one that is done at the Lake Eden Arts Festival in North Carolina, Gamble said. “It’s been established 15 years, and they do it once in the spring and once in the fall,” she said.

Set up in Greenbelt Park, the teepee sculpture will begin as simple poles set in a teepee frame. Children and adults will be asked create the sculpture by hanging bits and pieces of recycled materials and earthen materials of different colors and shapes on the teepee, creating a community sculpture.

Gamble said she thought Maryville needed something like the Community Teepee, a community collaborative project to bring the community together through arts.

“It is an interactive sculpture project for the whole community to get involved. Parents work with their kids who work with neighbor’s kids to build this wonderful piece of art they all create together,” she said. “By the end of the evening they can step back and look at what they all created. It’s a wonderful way to bring the community and families together, and it is lots of fun.”

Gamble said the teepee lets adults be kids and teaches kids about the potential of recycled materials and colors and shapes. The Interactive teepee will be set up from 5 to 9 p.m. At the end of the night, the sculpture will be taken down, preserved only in photographs.

Looking to the future

The Eco-Sculpture competition and Interactive Community Teepee are first steps in directions MAC wants to go with art in Blount County and the Last Friday Art Walk. Gamble said they hope to have four juried competitions that will be showcased during Last Friday Art Walk nights during the year.

“We’re trying to introduce four different juried competitions on a little bit higher level,” she said. “The Art Walk is free for all levels of artists -- from amateur to professional. It is a way for people to step out and see what it means to exhibit work and be exposed to the public. The juried competition can be an outlet for professional artists who need to take that next step.”

One of the juried competitions could be patterned after last year’s Tribute to Music theme at one of the Last Friday Art Walk events, where artists created to the musicians music. “It was great last year and we’ll do it again this year. We want to have two more events -- maybe a juried painting competition or something in the literary arts, poetry jam or maybe improv theater,” she said. “MAC is going to try hard to provide those juried competitions on the local level.”

For more information about Maryville Arts Coalition, Last Friday Art Walk or the Eco-Sculpture competition, visit

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